A cowboy walks into the room.
“If you write creative non-fiction you can write about anything. It’s not fiction it’s friction. Frisson. Between one thing and the other,” the cowboy says right after spitting a wad of tobacco into the distant horizon of memory.
“Oh yeah,” I say and grasp my raygun in the seventh of my eight tentacles. “It makes creative non-fiction (CSNY) energizing, this technique of juxtaposition.”
ZAPP! I destroy all the nouns but me and my desk.
The world ends and then my desk begins to communicate with me telepathically: Did you know Bichon Frise is French for “curly lapdog” or this really happened to me when I was seven? You can put anything into creative non-fiction and connect it with anything else.
“Really, Desk,” I say. “Is that true?”
“Sure,” the desk says out loud, opening and shutting its drawers to approximate speech. “There are stories of ghosts which are falsely accused of stealing a treasured plate, and so eventually killed and thrown into a well.”
Now I’m talking to you, the reader, directly because what I’m saying is literally true and I’m not really having a convo with a cowboy or my desk. Last year, when I went back to Northern Ireland, where I grew up, I remembered when I used to pretend to be a cowboy. I’d stride down the sidewalk pretending to have guns at my hips. Once I fell from a wall and cut my head. I still have the scar. I pulled myself home over the pavement as if I were a gunslinger who’d been heroically shot. I did believe in ghosts and would make deals with them when I walked into dark places. “Don’t hurt me or throw me down a well and I’ll promise to do something for you.” It was a raygun of hope which I hoped would make me feel less like fear tentacles had taken hold of me.
“So, pardner,” I say, now talking to the cowboy that I began this piece with, just to create some narrative action and surprise and whom I’ve brought up because I want to emphasize how when I was a kid, my world was infused with these story archetypes. “We didn’t think about Indigenous people when we were in Ireland, we just thought about killing other cowboys."
My dad looked at me. “Maybe it was like the ‘Troubles,’ the civil war which was all around us when we lived in Northern Ireland—two sides of similar people fighting it out.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I remember a British soldier at the end of our street taking out the magazine from his machine gun and letting me hold it.” Ack-a-ack-a-act-a, I though as I pretended to shoot things.
As I said, for much of my childhood I imagined real life as if it were a story. Cowboys, pirates. The movie She: I was eight years old a naked slave to the Headmaster’s daughter who lived in the top floor of our school. I remember telling Mark Gormley, a friend at the time about this. I wonder what happened to him? I’m going to look him up on Facebook right now and see if I can find him. Be right back.
On November 1, 2020 he went on a Morning Hike. Distance 6.2km, elevation 578m which took him 2:02:56. He went up Slieve Meelmore in the Mourne Mountains. Slieve is the Irish for mountain. This is near where my childhood cottage was and close to where I returned last year to stay in the town of Annalong and where I wrote this. No, now I’m just messing with you. I was there to hike and to work on a novel, which, as it turns out, involves cowboys. Seems we move one step forward in time and two back. How our world is infused with our past, with the paradigms established in our childhood. How we speak to our past even as we move forward.
“That’s a bit obvious, isn’t it?” says the cowboy rather obviously walking down Main Street with his guns drawn.
“Sure, but I hope you appreciate how all the images: tentacles, cowboys, rayguns were tied in. The only thing missing is the lapdog,” the hitherto forgotten stolen plate says.
Oh no! and here I am looking right out of the page to talk directly to you the reader: A Bichon Frise is missing! Kind of like my past. It’s just gone but I think about it all the time. Come back, Bison Frise, you make us feel warm and safe even though you sometimes bite us. If there were no nouns left, there’d still be the feeling of childhood. Its smells, colours, movements, its connections. But oh those nouns. Here at my desk in Hamilton, Ontario, so far away from Ireland yet so close, I think I’m going to open up a new word file and write a creative non-fiction piece about it them. Now. Command-O